Timeless West Hill

A Daytripper’s Taste of Hastings

The Plough, Hastings Castle, George Street and The Albion

Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards

Poster

With Hastings Castle still dominating the town, any book of Hastings walks should include a trip to visit a castle that is so steeped in the history of England.

It was the Norman Conquest in 1066 that thrust West Hill into the limelight and there is still enough left, after the ravages of nature, to fuel the imagination – helped by the excellent story boards, and the audio-visual programme, that cover the Conquest and the history of the castle.

There is a short climb up Victorian steps but to add to the fun, the West Hill Lift, with its original wooden coaches, will whisk you up to the top where, on a clear day, you may be able see the coast of France.

Closer are the old narrow streets and rooftops of Old Town, the fishing beach and views of the whole of Hastings and St Leonards and in the distance are the South Downs, Eastbourne and Beachy Head. The grassy West Hill is a delight and it is only a short walk to The Plough for a beer, before tackling the easier downhill part of the walk that finishes at The Albion.

Timeless Old Town, a walk of narrow streets, alleyways, steps this way and that, of Smuggler’s Caves and Foyle’s War – it is such a mix of back streets, cottages and tiny gardens of pots and troughs that it is almost a surprise that George Street appears below. There are pubs and bars galore along George Street and most warrant a pint or a note in that beer stained note book to return another day.

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Discover and Explore Walks from History Walks. To see all the walks and for details of how to buy: Click Here

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Web: www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Links:

CAMRA WhatPub, Hastings Tourist Information, Stagecoach

Wild and Desolate

1066 Harold’s Way Walk 3: Lesnes Abbey to Dartford

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This is a mixture of the wild and desolate and the urban and industrial, of old paths and new roads, old bridges and new bridges, meandering rivers and canals built in hope, Saxon Manors and concrete architecture. We pass the detritus of modern urban and industrial re-development and the solitude of a Church that figured in history during King John’s reign.

It is a walk that reflects the dreams of men and often their failure, from the monks of Lesnes Abbey who fought to hold back the Thames to the navigators and entrepreneurs of Dartford, building a ship canal that could not cope with the pressure of the tide.

Erith belies its history and its royal connections. Once it shaped England with a Council between King John and the Barons to avoid further civil war and a French invasion. Later, it was to build ‘the greatest ship ever known’, the ship that took Henry VIIIth to France, to ‘the Field of the Cloth of Gold’. Now it is a modern town with little of the past on show. Its closeness to the Thames has left it with factories and depots obscuring the river but Erith leads to the wilderness of the Cray Marshes with the QE2 Bridge soaring above the landscape. Even with power stations, breakers yards and flood defences there is still a beauty about this salt marsh.

The land has been farmed for centuries and at a curve in the River Darent, a path leads to Howbury Manor, less than half a mile away and mentioned in the Domesday Book. It would have stood at the time of Harold and with the Roman road only 1½ miles to the south – perhaps Harold dropped in for a ‘beer or a wine’ with the owner.

Follow the Darent to Dartford with its industrial heritage of paper production and engineering. Although the factories and paper mills have gone under the breakers ball there is now space for new dreams to be fulfilled and the herald of a new age for Dartford.

1066 Harold’s Way is a 100mile long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey, East Sussex, inspired by King Harold II’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The guidebook is available from good bookshops, Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and by mail order from History Walks.

http://www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Old Settles, Wooden Floors

Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards – Walk 3

A Taste of St Leonards – The St Leonard

At first glance, there is nothing to London Road except a mishmash of shop fronts, infills and traffic and that can often offend those more used to gleaming shopping centres and pedestrianised streets but you must look further into the character of both the shops and the people who belong to London Road.

My wife and I grew up in Nottingham and we both remember similar streets, indeed, my father had a thriving pharmacy on one such street now demolished. Everyone knew my father and so everyone knew me. St Anns Wells Road, Alfred Street and Arkwright Street all provided everything that you needed from sweet shops and cake shops, milliners, butchers and bakers, green grocers and grocers, a Home and Colonial, a Dewhurst’s, book shops and cafes, a pub on every corner and almost as many churches. To me, London Road is the same.

St Leonards PosterA pint in the CAMRA award winning St Leonard, creaking with atmosphere, old settles, wooden floors and life, helps the musings for ‘Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards’ and the forthcoming ‘Pub Walks in 1066 Country’.

The St Leonard is not some country pub but a warm and friendly town pub, refurbished in 2012, (it was formerly known as The Warrior Gate a corruption of the original 1833 name Warhouse Gate, taken from the name of an old lime kiln).

Now its wooden floors, mismatched tables and chairs, local art work and three regularly changing guest beers create a busy urban chic.

There is popcorn served with drinks and a food tasting menu available that includes sausage rolls, scotch eggs, charcuterie plate and pork pies and pizzas can be delivered to your table.

On one visit, I tried Brighton Bier South Coast IPA 5%, St Austell Trelawny 3.8%, Hogs Back TEA 4.2% and a taste of Prehistoric Amber 4.5%. All were well conditioned and well-kept but on the next visit, they are likely to have changed. Another time, I was impressed with the Franklins St Leonard, Franklins Greedy Guvnor as well as the Hogsback T.E.A.- again!

There is always a welcome and despite the restricted hours (Wednesday to Saturday 5pm -11pm and Sunday 3pm – 9pm) it is one to visit, to drink a pint and to sit and think – after all, they say that there is a book in us all! With such restricted opening hours it may be one to note in that black beer stained notebook to return to later.

If it is closed, there is consolation opposite in The Oak Bakery where money can be invested in their wonderful and moreish ‘Portuguese tarts’!

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Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards is available from Hastings Tourist Information and from The Bookkeeper, Kings Road, St Leonards and by mail order from www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Discover and Explore Walks from History Walks

To see all the walks and for details of how to buy:Click Here

Web: www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Links:

CAMRA WhatPub, Hastings Tourist Information, Stagecoach

A Quiet, Atmospheric, Dog Friendly Pub

Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards – Walk 3

A Taste of St Leonards – The Horse and Groom

Posh St Leonards, still full of Victorian and Edwardian grandeur. Those dreams that occupied the rich and famous have been largely replaced by a more pragmatic approach to urban living. The big houses still command Burton St Leonards but many have been converted to flats. The little terraced cottages, that housed the tradesmen and the washerwomen, now possess a chic that is more appealing and far more affordable.

Burton St Leonards was the first new seaside resort for the wealthy and became instantly popular with royalty and aristocracy. There were service areas for the new town; Mercatoria for shopping, and Lavatoria for laundry.

It was said ‘We should look in vain on any other coast in England for such a range of buildings as those he (James Burton) has raised below St Leonards Cliff; of a superior order, though not so ornamented as some of his previous structures. None but the unrivalled crescents of Bath and Bristol is superior to the Marina of St Leonards’. (Spas of England and Principal Sea-Bathing Places A.B. Granville, 1841).’

Horse 2The Horse and Groom was St Leonards’ first pub. It was built and licensed in 1829 for the benefit of the workforce busy constructing the new town of St Leonards. It is on record that they were so thirsty that the pub opened before the windows were installed. Workers also came to the Horse and Groom on Saturday nights to be paid their wages and were called in from the street one by one. They came again on Sundays to quench another thirst, this time to listen to the newspapers being read aloud. Edward Thebay was ‘Sunday reader’ at the Horse and Groom for many years. (Hastings Pub History).

Thirsty workers/walkers still visit The Horse and Groom. Warm and friendly, the two rooms are separated by a horseshoe bar and a back room for larger groups. The beers, Harvey’s Best and one or two guests, are always good and you get the feeling of a proper pub with no taped music, no food (just cobs on the bar, if you are lucky) and eclectic decoration. A quiet, atmospheric, dog friendly pub where you can enjoy good conversation and when I visited, the guests were Young’s Winterwarmer, Longman Long Blade and a fine Green King Abbot that slipped down a treat.

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Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards is available from Hastings Tourist Information and from The Bookkeeper, Kings Road, St Leonards and by mail order from www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Discover and Explore Walks from History Walks

To see all the walks and for details of how to buy:Click Here

Web: www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Links:

CAMRA WhatPub, Hastings Tourist Information, Stagecoach

Daytripper – A Taste of St Leonards

A St Leonards’ Pub Walk from

‘Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards’

Featuring The Horse and Groom and The St Leonard

Pub Walk 3

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Discover and Explore Walks from History Walks. To see all the walks and for details of how to buy: Click Here

Walks, Talks and Books from History Walks

Links:

The St Leonard, CAMRA WhatPub, Hastings Tourist Information, Stagecoach

Expand Your World

Take A Walk in the Park

 

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The North Star and Alexandra Park, Hastings.

Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards

Probably one of the best parks in the country.

Venture beyond the wide-open spaces of children running and playing and mums and dads trying to keep up. Cross the road into the beginnings of winding paths and streams that weave between the trees. A miniature railway has occasional outings to the whoops and shouts of its passengers.

Gentle climbs lead you beyond a fishing lake into the beginnings of a steep valley with unmade paths that follow the stream to Old Roar Ghyll – imagining and exploring. There are ferns and overhanging trees, the sound of the water rushing through gullies and a feel of mystery, emphasised by a darkness even in high summer.

Back the same way to walk to the other side of that fishing lake and a track carpeted with leaves. It leads to more black pools surrounded by dark trees and the path climbs but the steepest hill is left to the last to ensure your thirst for a pint at The North Star that is just around the corner.

The return leads you downhill through the trees to that more manicured park, past the café and children’s playground to the gates and full circle’

The North Star is a treat too. A proper pub with little of the 21st century. It was most likely named after the famous railway locomotive built by George Stephenson for the Great Western Railway. At one point, the locomotive was shipped to New Orleans, intended for the New Orleans Railway but the money could not be found to pay for it and it was duly returned. But why The North Star when it was so far from the station? Maybe the link is Joseph Wisden, a former guard on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, who built the pub in the late 1860s with steam still running through his veins.

The beer is good too!

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Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards is available from Hastings Tourist Information and from The Bookkeeper, Kings Road, St Leonards and by mail order from www.1066haroldsway.co.uk